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As many as 12 more retail cannabis shops are being eyed for Waterloo Region.

But for those looking to open their doors, the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions have made things a little difficult.

“There’s no doubt that these are extraordinary times that are impacting all of us,” says Raymond Kahnert with the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, adding while the process has shifted, it’s still ongoing.

“The other reality is that the province implemented an emergency order on March 17, which paused all non-essential construction.”

The move impacted a number of storefronts that are looking to open up, but Kahnert says the eligibility and due diligence reviews have not stopped, including several 14-day public notice periods.

He says there are stores that finished their construction before COVID-19 restrictions took effect, and are going through final approvals before being able to open.

“The whole point of the efforts we’re making is to keep things moving,” Kahnert points out, “So that, we all hope, when things go back to a time before, that we’ll be able to pick up the pace.”

“What isn’t going to change is that the AGCO will only license operators that have passed through intensive due diligence and background checks, including police checks, and that the public has had their say on whether it’s in the public interest to open at a given location.”

When the pandemic restrictions are lifted, Kahnert is sure there will be a backlog of construction contracts, making for some competition on who gets served first.

Kahnert says the AGCO has shifted to doing virtual inspections, which comes in a couple phases.

Passing the first will allow a licensee to order product from the OCS to stock shelves, while the second is more of a final inspection so the AGCO knows the owner is following the rules, and the public is comfortable.

The 12 prospective stores in Waterloo Region are all at various stages:

KITCHENER (6)

  • Highland Cannabis: 370 Highland Road West, Unit 15B
  • Cannabis Supply Co.: 1400 Weber Street East
  • The Cannabist Shop: 1283 Victoria Street North
  • Sativa Bliss Cannabis: 57 Queen Street South
  • The Cannabist Shop – King: 201 King Street West
  • 11822039 Canada Inc.: 73 King Street West, Suite 101

WATERLOO (2)

  • Session 7: 258 King Street North, Unit 12
  • Sweet Seven Cannabis Co.: 71 King Street North, Unit A

CAMBRIDGE (4)

  • Sessions Cannabis Cambridge: 101 Holiday Inn Drive, Unit B1
  • Sweet 7 Cannabis Co.: 611 Hespeler Road, Unit 2
  • Speak Easy Cannabis: 561 Hespeler Road, Unit 14
  • Miss Jones: 480 Hespeler Road, Unit 9/10A

CLICK HERE to access the AGCO website, and a link to put in public input for stores within the notice period.

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